Impact defeats San Jose 2-1 in season opener

Two first half goals secure three points for Bleu-blanc-noir

SAN JOSE, California - In the first game of its eighth MLS season, the Montreal Impact beat the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1, Saturday night at Avaya Stadium. After conceding a goal early, two first-half goals from the Impact’s Designated Players, Nacho Piatti and Saphir Taïder, were enough to secure all three points for the Bleu-blanc-noir.

“We didn’t control everything tonight, especially in the second half, but this is a victory for which the group truly worked hard,” said Impact head coach Rémi Garde. “We didn’t panic and we were able to come back from behind away from home, which takes a lot of character. We also managed to hold on until the very end thanks to this group’s team spirit.”

Barrage of goals in opening half

After a nervous start from both sides, the home team managed to profit from its first look on goal. In the 11th minute, midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili cut in towards the middle from the left flank and found Magnus Eriksson at the top of the box. The Swede turned and brought the ball to his left foot before placing it past Evan Bush for the game’s opening goal.

A few minutes later, Nacho Piatti tied the game with the club’s first goal of the 2019 season. Receiving a short corner from Taïder, the Argentine turned and dribbled past two defenders before smashing it past goalkeeper Daniel Vega to tie things up. Piatti’s 64th goal in MLS came in his 125th regular season game with the Bleu-blanc-noir. It was also his third goal against Earthquakes since he joined the league.

Rémi Garde’s men continued to press and scored the go-ahead goal right before the break, in the 44th minute. Centre back Zakaria Diallo, with space in midfield, found Taïder with a fantastic pass behind the defense. The Algerian put his foot through it with his first touch, giving Vega no chance.

“It was a difficult game,” said midfielder Samuel Piette. “There was always someone on us and it was difficult to find space. Players stood out individually and that was the key for us tonight. It was a good team performance, but the individual efforts made the difference.”

Good showing from newcomers

It was the visitors who came close to extending their lead upon returning from the locker rooms. In the 61st minute, Piatti again beat his defender to the left and broke into the box, passing it back for Taïder, but the midfielder’s shot went over the bar.

Orji Okwonkwo, who made his first MLS start, was a physical presence in the final third, creating havoc for the opposing defense before being replaced by Academy product Mathieu Choinière midway through the second half. Maximiliano Urruti, also making his first start with the Impact, was dangerous going forward and generous in his defensive efforts through 90 minutes.

The Earthquakes tested the Impact’s backline as the time dwindled down in the second half, but the Bleu-blanc-noir held strong defensively to ensure the three points.

“If we could have scored a third goal, the end of the game would’ve been different,” said centre back Zakaria Diallo. “They still had a chance to tie the game, so they continued to push. That’s when you realize how hard it is to close out a game away from home, but what’s important is the win and that we held on.”

Upcoming games

After returning to Montreal for a short period of time, the Impact will be back on the road for its second game of the regular season against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, March 9 at 5pm EST at BBVA Compass Stadium (TVA Sports, 98.5, TSN 690). Montreal will open its season at home, at Stade Saputo, on Saturday, April 13, at 1pm against the Columbus Crew SC (TICKETS – TVA Sports, 98.5, TSN 690).

LINE-UPS

MTL – GK-Evan Bush; D-Bacary Sagna, Víctor Cabrera, Zakaria Diallo, Daniel Lovitz; M-Samuel Piette, Micheal Azira, Saphir Taïder; F-Orji Okwonkwo (Mathieu Choinière 70’), Maximiliano Urruti, Ignacio Piatti (Zachary Brault-Guillard 85’)

Subs not used – Clément Diop, Rudy Camacho, Jukka Raitala, Shamit Shome, Anthony Jackson-Hamel

SJ – GK-Daniel Vega; D-Guram Kashia, Harold Cummings (Danny Hoesen 74’), Marcos López, Nick Lima (Tommy Thompson 61’); M-Aníbal Godoy, Cristian Espinoza, Judson, Valeri Qazaishvili; F-Chris Wondolowski, Magnus Eriksson (Jackson Yueill 69’)

Subs not used – Andrew Tarbell, Florian Jungwirth, Paul Marie, Shea Salinas

GOALS
SJ – Eriksson (Qazaishvili, Godoy) 11’
MTL – Piatti (Taïder) 29’
MTL – Taïder (Diallo) 44’

CAUTIONS
MTL – Sagna 45’+1’
MTL – Azira 58’
SJ – Cummings 66’
SJ – Thompson 73’
SJ – Judson 77’
MTL – M. Choinière 95’

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